Census working overtime as recruits needed for trial run

A HUNDRED recruits are being sought to help carry out a survey of 40,000 homes in Edinburgh as part of a trial run for the next UK census.

The 2011 population count will see people being given the chance to fill in the questions online for the first time.

And the rehearsal in the west of Edinburgh next March will allow organisers to test their systems for the real thing.

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Households in Haymarket, Viewforth and parts of Corstorphine, Gorgie, Dalry and Saughton, all the way out to Riccarton and the airport, will be included.

The census, held every ten years, is a snapshot of the number and characteristics of people in the UK on a particular day and helps the authorities plan and fund public services.

The recruits will mostly serve as "enumerators", who will visit every home in the rehearsal area to deliver a census questionnaire and explain what the census is all about.

They will begin their task two weeks before "census day" on March 29.

People will be given the choice of filling in the hard copy questionnaire and posting it back or using an individual code to go online and answer the questions there.

Unlike the real thing, the trial run is voluntary but organisers hope as many people as possible will take part to make it as effective a rehearsal as possible.

Census regional manager David Stevenson said: "This is west Edinburgh's opportunity to help shape Scotland's next census. Returning a questionnaire on paper or online will help us check whether the census questions and the delivery and processing arrangements need to be refined before the Scotland-wide census in 2011.

"Running the census rehearsal in west Edinburgh will test the arrangements for collecting information about people living in student halls, care homes, Saughton prison and temporary accommodation as well as every household, including people from eastern Europe and other minority communities. One of the exciting things is someone will be the first person ever to complete a census online in the UK."

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The details of what questions will be included in the next census – on Sunday March 27, 2011 – will not be confirmed until next month, but as well as basic information about the make-up of households, the exercise covers topics such as income, religion, ethnic background, workplace and health.

Mr Stevenson, 28, said: "The census is a cornerstone of our society, providing the information required by government and businesses to have a positive impact on our lives. My role, although varied, will mainly involve recruiting, training and motivating a strong team and raising awareness of the census rehearsal within the local community."

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